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End of the road for Ford's Bantam

While attending a press function for the new Focus this week, a Ford representative admitted to us that the Ford Bantam half-tonner is about to be handed the death knell.

The main reason given is that in line with Ford's latest globalisation strategies, in which maximum efficiency of scale is sought, South Africa's Silverton assembly plant outside Pretoria will become a one-platform factory in which only the new Ranger will be built - for local consumption and wide-scale export.

End of an era: The locally-developed Ford Bantam is expected to be phased out before the end of this year.

Ford could not give an exact date for the end of production, but speculated that it would be around September this year - meaning there should still be stock available until at least the end of the year.

The aforementioned globalisation strategy is also expected to spell the end for other unique niche products developed for specific regions, such as Australia's Ford Falcon.

Ford's representative would not divulge any details about how the company plans to plug the void left by the Bantam in the popular half-tonne segment, besides saying that they will bring something into the small commercial market.

Currently there is no half-tonne Ford bakkie available overseas, besides the outdated Ford Courier that's similar to our Bantam in a number of ways, so unless a replacement is created in Brazil, that other vehicle may just be the Ford Transit Connect panel van, which competes with the VW Caddy in Europe.

The death of Bantam spells the end of an era for a vehicle that's almost as South African as pap and wors, considering that the three generations of Bantam that have been on our market since 1983 have all been designed in South Africa, albeit using parts from other passenger vehicles in the Ford line-up.

The first Bantam was based on the front-wheel drive 'Erica' Escort, while its replacement of 1994 fused the front end of a Mazda 323 to the rear end of the original Bantam. The current Bantam, first introduced in 2002, is based on the facelifted Ford Fiesta of 2000.

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